The campaign for Equal Marriage in the UK

Today’s equal marriage symposium at Cardiff Law School provided lots of useful information on the campaign for same-sex marriage in the UK. So I thought I’d share some of it.

Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger talked about the 2006 High Court case in which they tried unsuccessfully to have their Canadian marriage recognised as a marriage in UK law. Thanks to s.215 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, their marriage is converted into a civil partnership when they step back into the UK, whether they like it or not. They now maintain an equal marriage rights website with background on their case, discussion of the legal issues and regular updates on gay marriage around the world.

They lost their case, but it forced the Court to put in writing its reasons for upholding a discriminatory provision (see especially paragraphs 116-122) – and as Robert Wintemute commented today, judgments like this don’t age well… .

Since then, a Populus poll for The Times in June 2009 suggested that 61% of the UK population agreed with the statement “Gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships.” Stonewall has come on board (mostly). The Equal Love campaign was launched in October 2010. On 2 February 2011 eight couples lodged an application to the European Court of Human Rights challenging the fact that marriage is limited to opposite-sex couples and civil partnership is limited to same-sex couples. Things are changing around the world.

But despite a flurry of excitement in February, the UK Government Equalities Office merely says in a press release,

Ministers have also identified a desire to move towards equal civil marriage and partnerships, and will be consulting further how legislation can develop, working with all those who have an interest in the area.

Doesn’t the enthusiasm just leap off your screen?

But it’s worth keeping up the pressure. In Scotland, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Equality Network helped run a symposium on equal marriage, leading to a report which calls for a change in the law. The equal marriage Scotland campaign was started by the NUS and during the 2011 election campaign they’re asking Scottish politicians to pledge their support. In Wales, Stonewall is holding hustings for the May 2011 elections (for instance in Cardiff on 19 April) where candidates can be asked about their stance. And across the UK, people can write to their MPs and MEPs to ask them about their views on equal marriage and urge them to write to David Cameron in support.